The latest embarrassment for global-warming activists came on Feb. 20 after Peter Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security in Oakland, admitted that he committed fraud to obtain documents he thought would embarrass a conservative think tank that has been a leading debunker of some of the overheated claims of the climate-change Chicken Littles. The memos, which reveal the group’s political and fund-raising strategies, provided little to embarrass the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, but it has damaged the reputation of a man who was a respected intellectual in the environmental world. Gleick, a MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellow, doesn’t seem brilliant now, as he takes a leave of absence from the institute, faces public embarrassment and possible prosecution. But even after Gleick admitted and apologized for his action, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik defended him: “It’s a sign of the emotions wrapped up in the global warming debate that Gleick should be apologizing for his actions today while the Heartland Institute stakes out the moral high ground.” “Peter Gleick lied, but was it justified by the wider good?” asked James Garvey of the British Guardian newspaper. He compared Gleick’s action to that of a man who lied to keep his friend from driving home drunk. “What Heartland is doing is harmful, because it gets in the way of public consensus and action,” he argued. “If his lie has good effects overall—if those who take Heartland’s money to push skepticism are dismissed as shills, if donors pull funding after being exposed in the press—then perhaps on balance he did the right thing. … It depends on how this plays out.” In his view, anything that gets in the way of “consensus”—i.e., everyone agreeing with Garvey—is dangerous, so why not cheat, as long as it “has good effects”? Let’s reserve judgment based on how it plays out. What would these people argue if a conservative who argues that, say, public-sector unions are bankrupting the state, pulled a similar fraud to get his hands on documents from union officials? Would they be defending that? Of course not. These writers are advancing a Machiavellian political agenda, not advancing a consistent ethical principle.